Dear Reader - Meeting a true WW2 hero + letting Harrogate Town FC down!

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Friday, 10th January 2020, 4:41 pm
Updated Friday, 10th January 2020, 4:44 pm
Harrogate war veteran Maurice Hammond with a model of the battleship he served on during the Second World War.

Courage has many faces but, in my experience, real heroes most often look just like you and me.

I mention this because on Tuesday morning I was privileged to be invited into the living room of a Harrogate man who served on HMS Warspite during the Second World War.

A signaller in the Royal Navy at a crucial period of the war, Maurice Hammond looks much like any other 93-year-old, though the twinkle in his eyes seems to be that of someone half his age.

Like every other war veteran I’ve been lucky enough to meet thanks to my job, he didn’t think of himself as a hero at the time he saw action off Normandy in the immediate aftermath of the D-Day landings. And nor does he now.

The iconic super dreadnought this expert signaller served on may have been the target of enemy gunfire, it may have been vulnerable to sinking by submarine at any moment but, to Maurice, he was simply doing something he needed - and wanted - to do.

In fact, he doesn’t even have his war medals now to show for it.

For nearly a hour, this remarkably energetic war veteran happily chatted to me sitting just a few feet away from a small model of the Warspite.

In those days, the “Grand Old Lady” as she was called, was one of the biggest and most deadly ships in all the British fleet.

Before I said cheerio, Maurice brought out a black and white photograph of himself from the 1940s. What I saw was a square-jawed, handsome young seaman. The picture of a hero.

Catch our interview with Maurice in next week’s Harrogate Advertiser.

“Referee, you’re rubbish.”

Harrogate Town fans are the most civilised in the whole of the National League.

Bar one.

Yes, I was responsible for that, er, lively outburst over what I regarded as an overly lenient approach by the man in black towards the tackling of the visiting players of Maidenhead, Town’s tetchy opponents in Saturday’s National League fixture.

Otherwise it was business as usual from the well-behaved home fans wrapped in yellow and black at CNG Stadium on Wetherby Road.

Quietly witty chants.

A warm welcome to the away fans.

Admirable restraint in terms of complaining about opposition players - or the referee, for that matter.

Once again, Harrogate Town’s supporters set a fine example.

One I failed spectacularly to live up to and obviously learned nothing from.

Don’t ask me why. My relationship with football has always been that way.

As Town pressed for a winner and the tackles flew in from the men down south, I went on to repeat my accusation about refereeing decisions on seven or eight occasions.

The fact the visitors had two players sent off before the end as Town claimed another victory obviously is no defence.

It all stood in stark contrast to a man I bumped into in the ground after the final whistle.

Johnny Walker has been supporting the club so long, he even remembers the days when Harrogate Town were called Harrogate Hotspurs.

“Harrogate Town are my life and they always be,” the 86-year-old told me with true dignity.